Welcome to my world is right: we take part in the production of our surveillance. His evidence?
But also I don’t buy the idea that some sort of surveillance society (or much of anything else) is being imposed upon us. We are, at the very least, complicit and many of us are actively encouraging the state and others to watch us more closely, which is where Facebook is going to come in, after I detour via Foucault.
In Foucault’s best books – his archaeologies of the medical profession, madness, prisons – he sets out to look at how knowledge and power become one thing.
In these histories he traces the way expertise held by particular groups comes to be valued and to shape not just institutions but the expectations of people of how the world should be and how knowledge comes to define the categories through which our socialised minds experience the world.
In his history of the medicalisation of society he looks at how phenomena that might once have been called, for example, evil spirits and been the subject of religious authority have been brought within the purview of medicine, doctors, hospitals, the medical establishment, health inspectors, local authorities, government departments etc. etc.
And these experts arose to meet a need, they didn’t just decide to become powerful experts. The author of this post says the same is true of surveillance:
But Facebook takes the individual’s complicity in the surveillance society to a new and altogether more intense level. This isn’t just people handing over the potential for surveillance to agencies outside their control in the pursuit of social/political/personal advancement. This is people acting as agents of surveillance on themselves – Facebookers put their whole lives online on their walls for everyone to see and some of them do it in compulsive, intimate detail.
David Brin’s book on the surveillance society, The Transparent Society, argued that in the new technological era we were going to have to get used to living in a world where privacy was impossible. Brin took some (grim) satisfaction from the fact that while our own lives may be laid bare, so would the lives of anyone who watched us – and that provided safeguards as well as threats.
I think this is a very Foucauldian way to look at it, but if you remember the idea of “government of the self and others” this blog goes too far away from the “and others” part in saying that:
But also I don’t buy the idea that some sort of surveillance society (or much of anything else) is being imposed upon us.
If we invite surveillance, or are willing to see it as a tradeoff for security, then we are complicit in that practice. But the idea that we in fact have (not want, or should have) totally free rein is not found in any modern theory of government, afaik.
We may be complicit and grant “permission in various ways” but how is it then used and the question is how can we take the permission back:
Blair, who is due to resign June 27 after a decade in office, wrote in an article in The Sunday Times that his government planned to publish new anti-terrorism proposals “within the next few weeks”.
An interior ministry spokeswoman confirmed the government was looking at including a “stop and question” power in the new legislation. “We are considering a range of powers for the bill and ‘stop and question’ is one of them,” she said.
The “stop and question” power would enable police to interrogate people about who they are, where they have been and where they were going, The Sunday Times said. Police would not need to suspect a crime had taken place.
If suspects failed to stop or refused to answer questions, they could be charged with a crime and fined, The Sunday Times said. Police already have the power to stop and search people but have no right to ask them their identity and movements.
Filed under: Surveillance